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Decongesting Our Cities Though Cycling And Walking

Government should consider on waiving the taxes on cycles because Cycling has zero environmental impact and it provides low cost mobility solution for low-income households apart from promoting cycling for all income groups especially in urban areas by developing cycling infrastructure in cities, introducing cycle-sharing schemes, and conducting awareness campaigns

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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In majority of the towns of our country, now a day, it is question of status symbol if one is not taking atleast his 2-wheeler to cover a short distance of even half a kilometer to buy milk/ vegetable or go to the ATM for a kilometer or to drive children for music class or tuition, and maybe even three to four kilometers to drop them to school. Apart from this, one feels comfortable to drive vehicle to reach offices, movie halls and malls that are located next to public transport facilities. On the one hand, everyone complains about the rising pollution level and the congestion whereas on the other hand a majority spends time in visiting Gyms (maybe again by driving) spending good half an hour or so to keep fitness level high. Is this not an irony that we are missing some basic concepts somewhere?

Cycling, considered to be environment friendly mode of transport, is silent and produces no emissions in contrast to vehicular mode of transport which is noisy and its emissions reduce air quality and add to the "greenhouse" gases contributing to global warming. Increasing the number of cyclists can save the lives on our streets. Cycling can also reduce congestion and the journey times of other road users, particularly in urban areas. Business establishments are mostly unwilling to be based in an area constantly facing traffic congestion causing goods delivery and health problems and result in a negative effect on the local economy. Cycling is a good muscle workout as it uses all of the major muscle groups for pedaling and is good for strength and stamina built-up. Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout.

Similarly, Walking is a great way to improve or maintain overall health. Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. Walking is low impact, requires minimal equipment, can be done at any time of day and can be performed at own pace. One can get out and walk without worrying about the risks associated with some more vigorous forms of exercise. Walking is also a great form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly, or who haven't exercised in a long time.

Active transportation, such as walking, cycling, in-line skating or skateboarding, is a great way to reduce greenhouse gases. Active transportation as an alternative to vehicular travel is associated with a number of social benefits, including increased social interaction, social networks and social capital which is becoming a common evil in the towns of the country. Decline in use of cycles in urban areas can be attributed to the factors such as Lack of safe cycling conditions in the cities; Lack of innovative cycle promoting schemes like bicycle sharing; and Social perception about cycling and preference of motorized personal transport over cycle.

The health benefits of cycling and walking outweigh the harm from inhaling air loaded with exhaust fumes. An international team of researchers who have modelled the effects say only 1 per cent of cities in the world have such high levels of air pollution that cycling or walking could make a person's health worse. Another factor that needs to be considered is that across the world, in 99 per cent of cities it is safe to cycle up to two hours a day," says Dr Audrey de Nazelle from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London.

Even in Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world - with pollution levels ten times those in London - people would need to cycle over five hours per week before the pollution risks outweigh the health benefits. "We should remember, though, that a small minority of workers in the most polluted cities, such as bike messengers, may be exposed to levels of air pollution high enough to cancel out the health benefits of physical activity. For Delhi, the most polluted city on the World Health Organization's database, the tipping and break-even points for cycling were 30 and 45 minutes per day respectively, while for walking they were 90 minutes and six hours and 15 minutes respectively.

The massive turnout at the bicycle events now being regularly organized in most urban centers have been attracting indicates that people are ready to hit the pedal, but on roads and stretches secured for those events. The response is also an indication that the child in all of us wants to come out and rekindle the joy of cycling. Almost all the major cities of the country, this is achievable if city planners and aspiring cyclists meet at some point. To begin with, planners must carefully analyze the groundwork being done by city-based cycling clubs and collate their data to make these cities a cyclist-friendly city. On their part, cyclists must shed their inhibitions and start using bicycles for local errands. As they stretch their limits, cycling will soon become a part of their lives. It will have dedicated road space for bicycles. As cars and two-wheelers take the service road, a cyclist can pedal ahead on the highway without stopping or slowing down.

Despite its role in ensuring safe cycling conditions, dedicated infrastructure for cycling is not being provided in Indian cities. This, however, is not a result of lack of provision for cycle infrastructure in the norms and standards for urban road design and construction, but due to inadequacy in their implementation. The Indian Roads Congress (IRC) code for urban roads, Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (UDPFI) guidelines and the new Code of Practice for design of Urban Roads prepared by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), all clearly provide for cycle tracks as an important cross-sectional element of urban roads. Very few cities in the country, however have constructed cycle tracks. These networks have problems related to bad design, lack of maintenance, encroachment, inadequate lighting, etc. There are no dedicated investments proposed for cycle tracks in city budgets and city mobility plans.

Government should consider on waiving the taxes on cycles because Cycling has zero environmental impact and it provides low cost mobility solution for low-income households apart from promoting cycling for all income groups especially in urban areas by developing cycling infrastructure in cities, introducing cycle-sharing schemes, and conducting awareness campaigns.

This article is reproduced as part of BW Businessworld’s campaign to promote and educate the people of India on the need for a cleaner and greener environment. We strive to make our cities of tomorrow smarter through viable urban mobility solutions like cycling and walking.

BW Businessworld Smart Cities Conclave & Awards is a platform that endeavours to engage smart cities, thought leaders and innovators to bring forth smart and sustainable ideas that can link our progressive cities to solutions that are best suited for them.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Dr. DK Agrawal, Former Expert Member, National Green Tribunal

The author is Former Expert Member, National Green Tribunal

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